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Intracellular Barriers to Non-Viral Gene Transfer

[ Vol. 2 , Issue. 2 ]


Delphineq Lechardeur and Gergely L. Lukacs   Pages 183 - 194 ( 12 )


Non-viral vector mediated gene transfer, compared to viral vector mediated one, is a promising tool for the safe delivery of therapeutic DNA in genetic and acquired human diseases. Although the lack of specific immune response favor the clinical application of non-viral vectors, comprising of an expression cassette complexed to cationic liposome or cationic polymer, the limited efficacy and short duration of transgene expression impose major hurdles in the widespread application of non-viral gene therapy. The trafficking of transgene, complexed with chemical vectors, has been the subject of intensive investigations to improve our understanding of cellular and extracellular barriers impeding gene delivery. Here, we review those physical and metabolic impediments that account, at least in part, for the inefficient translocation of transgene into the nucleus of target cells. Following the internalization of the DNA-polycation complex by endocytosis, a large fraction is targeted to the lysosomal compartm ent by default. Since the cytosolic release of heterelogous DNA is a prerequisite for nuclear translocation, entrapment and degradation of plasmid DNA in endo-lysosomes constitute a major impediment to efficient gene transfer. Only a small fraction of internalized plasmid DNA penetrates the cytoplasm. Plasmid DNA encounters the diffusional and metabolic barriers of the cytoplasm, further decreasing the number of intact plasmid molecules reaching the nuclear pore complex (NPC), the gateway of nucleosol. Nuclear translocation of DNA requires either the disassembly of the nuclear envelope or active nuclear transport via the NPC. Comparison of viral and plasmid DNA cellular trafficking should reveal strategies that viruses have developed to overcome those cellular barriers that impede non-viral DNA delivery in gene therapy attempts.


Intracellular Barriers, Gene Transfer, ENDO-LYSOSOMAL, Lipoplex, Endocytosis, Wheat germ agglutinin


Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Av., Toronto, Ont. Canada

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